HUSK, SHELL, REMAINS: LETTING IN THE LIGHT, VACATING OUR LIVES TO LIVE: THE ABC’s of A Way to Be and See for Infinity, Featuring Mark Doty’s Reading of a Green Crab Shell

Thanking you, Poetry Slow Down, for joining me on this summer day, for an hour away, a way, as we go on vacation, for more poetry of the tourist kind, the tourist mind, perhaps disoriented, as Billy Collins wants to hijack us and take us out of town and drop us off in a cornfield . . . on our program theme today of how we honor life by living it now, paying attention so consciously, a way that requires going away, going outside, out of the normal workaday world. Let’s step outside, this summer day, and get down with it: literally, down to it, at ground level, with Walt Whitman’s Preface to Leaves of Grass, and Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day,” –“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” That’s our question, isn’t it? Our one wild and precious life? And the paradox is that being present in our world requires or is a function of leaving it, in this sense, to spend time as Oliver does, so-called wasting time, unproductively in a field at grass level, eyeing a grasshopper, leaves of grass, eye to eye, and it is having to leave our daily routine, to vacate our world, vacate—the root world of vacation we were exploring in last week’s show together—to be empty, getting us away, in order to be . . . more fully present in our world. E.e. cummings pledges in our show’s favorite sonnet, i thank You God for most this amazing day  . . . i who have died am alive again today, in the spirit of gratitude Oliver expresses, for a sense of life, in the face of all of us dying, too soon, “now the eyes of my eyes are awake and now the ears of my ears are opened.” The emphasis on now, now, living and being present now–that’s what Oliver is talking about, and seeing, hearing, June Jordan, on ears opened, being present: Listening—a good way to hear . . . So today we are listening to poets taking us on vacation, vacating our normal lives, as they share their experiences of being AWAY, and what they see, and how they be, A way to be and see . . .

So let’s walk down the beach with Mark Doty, and see what there is to see, and like Mary Oliver, looking at the grasshopper in the grass, up close and personal, he’s at ground level, and he sees a crab shell fragment, what remains, and how enduring remains remind us of life within now, and what miraculous beauty is possible even now . . . in the precision of notice of our world.

So our line up for today, listening to poets taking us away and writing home, making us see our world with fresh eyes and appreciation for this world and our minds, which make the perception of this world possible: don’t you think our world created our minds out of vanity, wanting to be noticed and appreciated, why eyes evolved. . . and ears . .  .and brains, to conceive, this is . . . beautiful . . . marvelous . .  .what is this . . . we’ll hear W.B. Yeats, W.H. Auden, Rita Dove, Charles Wright in his garden, Pablo Neruda being corny, Linda Gregg—a poem that will carry you away, open you to life’s possibilities, your own role in letting in life, giving permission to what is wild and precious in you, one of my Union Institute and University colleagues where I’m broadcasting today, David Young, a marvelous poem about Adlai Stevenson and Yellow Jackets, outdoors pieces, Lois Melina, my Union Institute & University colleague in the Ethical and Creative Leadership Ph.D. program where we’re teaching, calling out my own response in Night Hunger, Wild Hunger, speaking of being outside, outing my ambivalence about being out there, but how necessary it is to being alive inside, inside our ice-chest–and what poetry has to do with it:

So Poetry Slow Down, let’s walk on the beach, wear your mental suntan lotion and glasses, because he’s got neural heat going on . . .

© Barbara Mossberg 2011

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *